Momma Cooks Comfort Food


Here at GRIT, we have a department called Comfort Foods. I’ve always kind of distrusted the label of a comfort food, since to me food is more about sustenance than comfort. But after heading home for the weekend, a fried chicken dinner prepared by my mom reminded me of how comfort foods feel and what they’re all about. And with any luck, someone out there will have a venison chili recipe that will add one more recipe to my arsenal of comfort foods.

But what is a comfort food to me? It has little to do with the actual filling of my stomach. Rather, I think of comfort foods as those dishes we eat that take us back to a time and place, much like my favorite songs that always remind me of the same things.

A cornfield on our farmland

From a young age, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, homegrown corn, dinner rolls and milk – out of a Mason jar most times – have been a staple to our family’s diet. It brings a vivid picture to mind of sitting at our old dinner table in the old farmhouse, no television or radio on, just a family of five gathered around the largest meal of the day; us boys eager to empty our plates and start wrestling or whatever was the plan for entertainment that particular night, antagonizing something for sure. The smell reminds me of sitting hungrily with the gravy steaming and smell of the chicken drifting, us unable to fill our plates until the prayer was said.

That is comfort; more from the memories and ease that those memories put us at rather than how stuffed we get – although we had that meal on Saturday, and I was still feeling full Monday. To this day, fried chicken, steak (grilled or chicken fried), meatloaf, my mom’s taco recipe and even tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (we still call them toasted cheese, for some reason) all conjure up images of that little room with five place settings. Those things take me back to my childhood in the same way that spaghetti and Yellow Tail Shiraz take me back to the living room of a house I shared with my brother Josh while in college. It was a coffee table with two settings, rather than a dinner table with five.

What about you? What foods take your memories back to certain places and times?

Caleb Regan
1/15/2009 1:13:16 PM

Thank you both for the comments and sharing your ideas. Lori– I can't wait to try making my own summer sausage. My family has always had the folks at the locker make summer sausage with some of the ground venison. It will be nice to do it myself. And I know what you mean with the potpie. My mom's baked beans are the same way; I just can't seem to get them exactly like hers. It may be a mental delusion, but it's always better when Mom makes it. Cindy- I've noticed that game recipes tend to not get written down as much as other recipes. Editor Hank Will pointed me toward a cookbook with game recipes, called Trail Boss's Cowboy Cookbook, available on for $13.56. The Cincinnati-style chili sounds interesting. I've never heard of cinnamon in chili.

Cindy Murphy
1/14/2009 12:50:47 PM Mom's homemade chicken soup; my favorite comfort food, and the BEST chicken soup ever. Unless, of course, Keith makes it - then I have to say HIS is the best. (She gave him her recipe.) Whoever cooks it, it makes the whole kitchen smell wonderfully warm and comfy. He just made a big pot this weekend; with all the snow we've had, it's been the perfect "soup weather". Chili weather too, in fact, and he makes a darned good chili. Typically he uses ground beef, although I know he's substituted venison for beef on occasion. I'd give you the recipe, Caleb, but I'm not quite sure he has one - he wings it; it's a bit different each time. It's kinda a love-it, or hate-it chili though...Cincinnati-style, which is more sweet than heat because one of its main ingrediants is cinnamon. Served over spaghetti noodles with gobs of cheese, and onions is what is referred to as a "three-way" when you order it in Cincinnati. Mmmmm.

1/14/2009 6:12:10 AM

Hi Caleb! One of my best comfort food memories is going to my grandma's house for homemade potpie! No one else has ever come close to hers! I have her recipe and I know how she makes it, but it still is not the same. Maybe it has to do with actually being at her house. Just being in her kitchen and sitting at her table somehow makes it better! I use venison burger in my chili. I don't really have a recipe though. My staple ingredients are burger,kidney beans, onions, and my home canned tomato sauce and or salsa. After that, I usually add whatever spices strike me at the time, and depending on my mood, I add hot pepper to give it some kick! If you have a lot of burger to use, I have a recipe you might like. I was given a recipe just this year, for homemade summer sausage. It is extremely easy, and very good. It is made in small batches, using only 2 lbs. of burger at a time. That makes it convenient to pull a pack or two of burger out of the freezer and make whenever you feel like it. The recipe is as follows: Summer Sausage 2 lbs. ground meat 2 TBSP tender quick 1 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke 1/8 tsp garlic powder (or more if you like) 1/4 cup water pepper to taste mix and shape into two rolls wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 24 hrs. Remove paper and bake @ 300 degrees for 1 hour.Cool and slice. Yummy! This is a bit on the salty side, so you could adjust for that by using a bit less of the tender quick, and I use a fair amount of course ground black pepper.

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